Although commercially made dog food is designed to provide appropriate levels of nutrition for generally healthy dogs, there are some dogs that will have minor to severe digestive problems when on any type of commercial food. Luckily for most owners this is not true for all dogs, but there are some breeds that do have more sensitive digestive tracts. Dogs that are known to have digestive problems within the breed itself include:
Of course any dog can have digestive problems, but these breeds are often more prone to sensitivity issues with diets than other dogs. Any deep chested dog such as the Boxer, Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, Bulldog or even the Standard Poodle can also be more likely to have problems with gastric torsion, also known as bloat. Bloat, while it may not sound serious, is a life threatening condition where pressure builds up inside the stomach and presses into the chest cavity and the heart, often resulting in death if not treated. Feeding several smaller meals a day and avoiding any exercise for one hour after eating can help, as can feeding different types of food that do not expand in the stomach, even if the dog drinks water immediately before, during or after the meal.
Many dogs only have mild digestive problems from commercially prepared dog food and often these problems are just seen as part of the dog's overall behavior and physical make-up. The most common sign of a digestive problem is excessive gas, something that all dog owners can tell you is not a small issue in a confined space! Dogs that have a lot of gas are not properly digesting some component of the food, which is resulting in the horrible smelling result. Finding the exact cause of the gas production may sound like a good idea, however it is often very difficult as it is impossible to add only one component of a commercially prepared food to a diet a time since it is all pre formulated.
Some of the most common signs of a digestive problem that may be related to your dog's diet include:
Vomiting after eating, often a watery runny consistency with or without food chunks
Bad smelling breath if the teeth are clean and there is no indication of gum or dental disease or tartar problems
More than one or two normally formed bowel movements per day
Diarrhea or very hard stools
Stomach grumbling and gas
Constantly hungry and always eating, even though the food is being given as per recommendations for the dog's weight
Picky dogs that only eat food for a few weeks and then go "off their feed" until owners switch to a new brand
Lethargy, lack of energy and enthusiasm, obese or extremely thin dogs
Loss of hair, excessive scratching, licking or biting at the skin signaling allergic reactions to the food
Of course any of these symptoms may also indicate a potentially serious health condition that is completely unrelated to diet, so the first step is to take the dog to the vet and have him or her checked over. Once the vet is able to rule out health concerns, the next step is to find out what is causing the problem and work to either find commercial foods that don't contain the problem ingredient or switch to a homemade or raw foods diet such as the BARF diet.
Determining The Problem
Generally to find out what the problem is the first step is to get your dog off all commercial foods and onto foods they have not eaten before to determine the issue. Usually vets and holistic treatment experts will recommend starting with a lamb and rice or duck and rice diet that does not contain any preservatives or other chemical agents. If the health condition or the digestive problems clear up after a week or two on this diet, then at least the owner can rest assured that previous food was the culprit.
At that point in time many owners decide to move away from commercially prepared foods altogether, but it is still important to research and find out what options you have and how to correctly feed using either a homemade food diet or a raw foods diet. Incorrectly feeding either of these two alternatives, although they are very health and actually better for your dog, can still result in digestive and health problems.
Feeding homemade diets may include foods such as brown rice, whole grains, vegetables and lean meats that are cooked, mixed together and either fed moist or baked and fed dry. Homemade foods can be very nutritious and easy to prepare for smaller breeds, however for larger dogs or multiple dogs it can be a real scheduling issue. Keep in mind that since there are no preservatives food will have to be made several times a week to ensure it is fresh. Baked homemade kibble will last longer, however you cannot cook large batches in advance unless you have room to store in a freezer as it will absorb moisture from the air and spoil.
There are many different books, websites and programs for feeding either homemade foods or a raw foods diet. Before deciding on either one read, ask questions and learn about the various diets and what different breeders and vets recommend. You may also wish to consult a holistic veterinarian who will take into consideration all aspects of your dog's health and may even be able to suggest various types of organic dog foods that might meet your pet's needs without having to move to either a raw or homemade diet.
If the owner wants to continue on with a commercial dog food he or she can then work with the vet, holistic vet or animal nutritionalist to try to add back different items into the dog's diet safely. Since it is important to change, then feed and wait for problems to develop, this can be a long experimentation process. Patience, accurate record keeping and a willingness to work with your vet or nutritionalist will pay off and you will find a food that matches just want your dog's digestive system needs.